Gaby Sundra is a relationship expert and love coach on a mission to empower couples to enjoy a more playful, peaceful, passionate relationship by keeping the “fights clean” and the “sex dirty”. She translates relationship complaints into constructive goals and turns lofty visions into everyday realities with her proactive and playful approach.
She earned her Masters degree in Education, Counseling and Guidance and has worked as an educator and coach for over 25 years, yet it’s her own “messy-to-magical” marriage with her husband, Raj, that has enabled her relationship guidance to be so spot on. Together they created an intentional “couple culture” and started living into that vision. People noticed, started asking for support and eventually Raj and Gaby started Relationship Fun and Games. As their work evolved, so did their company and ForBetter.Love was born.
Gaby remains a passionate proponent of the proactive approach. Her innovative methods are fiercely forward focused, gently shifting any negativity into connection and concrete action steps. She’s a wiz at supporting couples in not just digging themselves out of a relationship ditch, but cultivating a couple culture of “aiming for awesome”. Between her quality no-cost content to high touch personalized coaching programs, Gaby and ForBetter.Love has couples covered.
Gaby and her husband Raj split their time between Sequim Washington and Santa Barbara CA where they run three businesses together yet still make time to enjoy both the tall evergreens and the sandy beaches.
Where did the idea for ForBetter.Love come from?
It really stemmed from my own relationship. My now husband and I’s first date was a blind date, we both had to be convinced to show up. The whole idea of why we started this business was that my relationship was initially so messy that at our engagement party people pulled us aside and said “don’t do this, don’t get married!” Then once we were married, people saw how different our relationship had become and started asking “what on earth did you do!”
A few years later we had some friends who were getting married and hosting a workshop on relationships, and they asked us to participate. They led ¾ of it but they had the remaining ¼ led by 5 couples who represented the 5 values of their relationship. My husband and I were chosen to represent devotion, and this was the first time we ever spoke on relationships publicly. People loved it–they were laughing so hard and kept saying “you have to do a show and bring this to the world!”
It took another 2 years of people telling us how we had something different and special to say about relationships for us to actually create something. I asked people what made us different, and they said that our ideas were fun and playful. From that our company, initially called “Relationship Fun and Games,” was born, and 7 months later we changed the name to “For Better Love.” Our initial instincts were right, we have been together for 15 years and married for 10.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My husband and I are productivity junkies! Before I did relationship work I was doing personal development work–both teaching and taking courses. I taught ‘life success’ at the community college level, so I was a student of “what works what works what works.” One of my core philosophies I call “pragmagic” because I’m very practical but I also believe in embracing all the things we don’t know and the magic in the world, trusting our gut, intuition, all that kind of stuff.
With productivity I have tons of things that I do. I bring intentionality into everything I do. The biggest tool that both my husband and I use is called “90 day games.” My husband originally took the idea from Verne Harnish, but essentially it is all about creating 90 day goals. You work in chunks–90 days on and 30 days off.
We take the 90 days and break it down–what are we going to do in the 12 weeks to achieve our goal? What are we doing this week? What are we doing today? At the end of every work day I make a note of “this is what I got done today and this is how long it took.” Underneath that I say “this is what I’m going to do tomorrow and how long I think it will take me.” That way I have this daily declaration of “this is what I did and what I will do,” and it just helps me clear my mind.
I’m not a morning person so when I wake up without a plan I’ll just do busy work to get going, but if I start with a plan and declaration, I have a clear set of things to accomplish. I am able to be such a planner because I know that I run my calendar, it doesn’t run me. A lot of people avoid making declarations because they feel like a failure if they don’t meet their stated goals. I have no problem looking at my day and saying “you know what, I’m actually going to do something different today.” But it is very empowering to make a declaration every day to my team: this is what I did, this is what I’m going to do. And I have them do the same thing.
How do you bring ideas to life?
For one, bringing ideas to life is usually about stories. Can you talk about something, can you narrate it, can you bring it to life by talking about it to your team so they get excited and understand your vision? The 90 day games play into this as well–as I am mapping out my plan, I think “If this is my 5 year goal, what is my 3 year, 1 year, 90 day?” Breaking it into these bite-sized pieces brings the idea to life.
Another big piece of this is that I bring ideas to life by working with people, by building teams. I find it very valuable to bring people together to bring ideas to life. It is a win for me when I introduce 2 people and they come together. I think being a connector is a huge way to bring things to life whether it is for your benefit or the benefit of the greater good.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Treating relationships as you would your physical health: the idea of proactivity and prevention vs. treatment. When it comes to health, we used to only go to the doctor when we were sick and now we know that it is often too late by the time you’re sick. Most couples don’t do anything for their relationship until they are trying to avoid divorce. And avoiding divorce is a messy business. A lot of my couples do come to me at that point, but then my goal is to get them out of focusing on problems and into focusing on alignment in 3 sessions. Solutions to problems rather than problems as adversaries. To do that you focus on the future not the past.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I can’t repeat this enough–90 day games!
What advice would you give your younger self?
I’ve done some deep visualizations connecting with myself as a child. In photos from my childhood, my standard pose was a huge smile, hands up in the air. It’s a pose of unfiltered joy and expression. I did a personal development course where I was asked: “could you handle it if it was your job to be happy?” Most of us couldn’t. Firstly, my advice FROM my younger self is to just be happy. There are 6 billion, almost 7 billion people in the world–I am a speck of dust on a speck of dust in a blip of time. Why would I live my life in order to get somewhere–it is to be enjoyed. So the same is kind of true in reverse, I would tell my younger self to continue to pursue fun and contribution. Be happy and express yourself and the rest will work out.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
‘It is my job to experience joy and create enjoyable experiences for others.’ That is one of my mantras that I say to myself regularly.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Setting goals but making them fun, not pressured. Having a beginning, middle and end to goals. Completing them and then starting fresh. This has been huge.
A close second is that I designed my business around my lifestyle, and not my lifestyle around my business. Life is too short to work first and enjoy life later. Build the idea of loving your life into your work. Create work that is so “you” that it is hardly work. Do it in a way that lights you up.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Of course the 90 day games idea It is core to everything I do!
I also have a project manager who manages all of my plans in Asana, and once a week in slack he tells me how much my goals have moved forward and what I need to do in order for my goals to move forward the next week. I basically hired someone to boss me around and I told him that was his job. I set the goals but I need someone to be on me or I might default to indulgence.
Honestly also caring deeply, even if that is not really a strategy. I really, really care about love and I care about people so I think that makes a big difference in my business. I’m not just here for money.
Another big one is seeking council from clients and mentors. Give, give, give, get. I don’t mean you should be transactional. I love to support my friends in whatever they’re doing, but I don’t hesitate to ask for the same in return. I’ve found that if I feel really comfortable with someone I can meet with them and get advice and feedback. Interview your clients a few times a year to get council, and really take their thoughts into consideration.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I experienced some failure when moving from a solopreneur to working with a team–this was a big challenge. At first I was doing everything myself, and then I had to learn HR and how to hire. I hired a VA at first and then a project manager. I had a series of failed hires, but eventually found the right person to be my project manager. HR is no cakewalk–I learned to hire slow and fire fast. There are exceptions of course. Now I have had my first hire take over HR so I don’t really have to do it again! Become a master delegator!
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
A tool to help couples schedule, with a calendar for what is most important to them. How much me time, us time, family time will we have this month
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I think the Logitech camera. It is so clear! Also a little light attachment and microphone for my computer. It has made a huge difference in this era of doing things online. In the COVID era everyone is doing something online. To have a nice picture and good signal and sound is very important.
Also we haven’t been doing much celebrating so I splurged and bought a really nice bottle of champagne. You have to celebrate your wins!
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Asana, Slack and Toggl all help to budget my time and my team’s time.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
One of the first influential books for me was an early personal development book called The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck. The beginning of the book says something like ‘life is difficult, once you accept that you are a much happier person.’ People say all the time in a relationship ‘it shouldn’t be this hard’ but it is difficult. Don’t plan for things to be easy.
What is your favorite quote?
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive” — George Bernard Shaw
- Schedule your goals into 90 day games – how are you going to achieve something during this time period, and how can you break this down into smaller pieces?
- Do what gives you joy!
- Treat relationships as you would your physical health–be proactive when something doesn’t feel right.
Carlyn runs the day-to-day publishing operation here at ideamensch and interacts with our awesome customers and entrepreneurs. She is likely editing this with a cat on her lap.